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Warning: this log contains a mech being deliberately and somewhat graphically tortured and pushes the PG13 rating. Read at your own risk.

Vortex First Aid Makeshift Soundwave

(Tunnels, Iacon)

"Thanks again for coming with me," First Aid says, walking along the corridor. Dually's behind him, but the corridor's empty- it pretty much always is, the maintenance tunnels under Iacon are usually fairly deserted, and he can count on one hand the number of times he's encountered someone between here and Cubicron on this route- most traffic takes the faster bypass, since it's friendlier to most alt modes, but unless Aid is catching a ride with someone, he typically takes the underground route. "And... um... well, if we get in trouble, I promise, I'll tell them it's my fault. Okay? I don't want you to get in trouble on my behalf. I know Prowl's worried, but it's been orns, and nothing has happened yet."

Vortex hears First Aid before he sees him. He stands in a recess, his back and rotors pressed flat against a maintenance door. It's dark here, and he's pretty sure he can't be seen from the main passageway, but he isn't about to take any chances, and because of this has dimmed his optics almost entirely. As he waits he listens, and his more specialised programming kicks in - First Aid has a young voice, too talkative for his own good, sounds trusting, and is probably not armed, but Vortex doesn't really give a scrap whether he is or not.

Other than the sound of Dually and First Aid's footsteps and voices, the corridor is quiet, with a distant, soft roaring noise of ventilation fans somewhere far away. "Don't worry about it, kid." Not like Makeshift will be there to deal with the consequences, after all.

"I- that's really nice of you, Dually, thanks, but still. I mean, Prowl. No one wants to get in trouble with Prowl, even if he is just trying to keep me and everyone safe- not that I do, but you didn't have to offer and it was my decision, after all." First Aid glances over his shoulder at the larger Autobot and smiles. "I appreciate it, though."

For a moment, Vortex holds still and listens to Makeshift and the medic; the neutral has a serious talent, and Vortex resolves to use him again if the opportunity should arise. Then he braces himself against the wall, and holds in place just long enough for First Aid to get almost in line with his hiding place. Then he launches himself out of the tunnel, aiming to get the medic silenced and cuffed as quickly and quietly as possible, and without damaging him.

Although he'd gotten pinged back with an acknowledgement from the Decepticon he'd been hired to assist that the mech would be on hand to take delivery in the tunnels, Dually- Makeshift- is still a bit startled when the heliformer explodes out of a recess in the corridor, reflexively flaring out his shoulder-mounted guns, although he recognizes Vortex a bare millisecond later and doesn't power them up. Instead, he steps back- the Autobot has been delivered, and while he'll help if things get out of hand because it's only good business, his current job is officially over.

First Aid emits a startled burst of static as a grey form impacts him, scrabbling to grab hold of him. "Wh- Dually!" He shouts, trying to free himself and warn the other Autobot in the same second. He twists his arms, trying to get loose. "Let go of me!"

The Autobot's shock is entertaining, and his efforts at escape pitiful. Vortex tugs First Aid's arms behind him, clicks the cuffs in place, and activates the signal disruptor loaned to him by Soundwave; that should, if Soundwave knows his stuff - and Vortex is certain he does - render the Autobot's comm equipment useless for as long as it's enabled. Then, with his left hand tight around the short stretch of chain between the cuffs, Vortex levels his right arm-mounted laser at the back of First Aid's head. "Hush now," he cautions. Then, to Makeshift, "I'll be flying him out; there's a harness by that door, bring it over." He could do it himself, but he figures that the more First Aid feels as though he's isolated and alone, the better.

"Pleasure doing business with you and your boss, as always." Makeshift retains Dually's form as he retrieves the harness from the location Vortex indicated, although he drops the disguised voice. The polymer webbing is a netlike tangle that he shakes out- if he's never done this before, his natural nonchalance covers it adequately. "Always happy to work with a good client." He adds.

First Aid twists, still trying to free himself. His comm doesn't work- dead silence, static, not even a ping in response when he tries to contact the main Autobot channel, or the private channels for Hot Spot, Blades, or Streetwise. "Dually, what- what are you doing?" The big orange mech continues straightening out the mess of whatever it is he's picked up- a harness? "Let me GO!" He tries again to pull his wrists away from the grey mech holding onto him- if he can just get loose, he can run, maybe his comm will work further away- maybe he can get back to the gates or the guards in the upper tunnels.

Vortex holds on tightly to his prize. The noise doesn't actually bother him, but First Aid's persistence in thinking that Dually is actually Dually is entertaining, and informative. Vortex had hoped that Makeshift would keep up the pretence, but he's adaptable enough to change his tactics once Makeshift revealed that he was in fact an impostor. Vortex wonders when the Autobot's CPU will catch up with his audials, and he'll realise that. "Fasten it around his chassis and legs," he says to Makeshift. Then, to his captive, "Stop that, you'll hurt yourself."

"Whatever you want," Makeshift says with a very un-Dually-like smirk, leaning over Aid to pass the straps around him, clicking fasteners closed and cinching the harness down so it won't slip around while Vortex is in flight, even if the medic struggles.

"Let me /go/!" First Aid continues to struggle, although it's mostly ineffectual. He tries to kick Dually when the orange mech gets close, but with Vortex behind him, doesn't have the leverage to put any power behind it, and mostly succeeds in putting himself even more off balance. "Somebody, HELP!" Even at max volume, his vocalizer doesn't carry much over the sound of the ventilation fans. THe tunnels look deserted, but maybe someone's there.

Vortex grins and leans close to speak softly directly into First Aid's right audio receptor. "Keep that up and I'll remove your vocal processors." He checks the signal inhibitor again, and gives the harness a quick once-over. Everything seems to be as it should. "There's a linkage between my landing gear," he says to Makeshift. "Hook him up and I'll take him from here." He tightens the strap between First Aid's feet, to prevent him from stumbling off, and transforms beside him.

Vortex fragments into a complex swirl of sharp-looking parts. How he manages to form a helicopter out of that is anyone's guess, but he does.

Makeshift leans over to grab the indicated attachment point and shoves First Aid roughly towards Vortex so that he can keep one hand on the Autobot while bending over to attach the cabling between the harness and Vortex's landing gear. "You got it, and you should be good to go. Need anything else from me?"

No one is coming, no one can hear him, but all he can do is keep trying to free himself or alert someone or something. The cuffs are inescapable, and without his hands free, he can't begin to undo the webbing around him- no one is coming. First Aid tries calling one more time. "HELP!"

Vortex engages his main engine, his rotors turning, slowly at first, then picking up speed. He rises, the harness pulling taut, testing the medic's weight. "Not right now," he answers Makeshift's question. "When I do, I'll be in touch." He says 'when' and not 'if' to emphasise how it's in Makeshift's best interests to stick with the 'cons, and not - for examples - go off telling the Autobots that someone's missing. Not that he believes Makeshift would do that; this one really does seem to be the best kind of neutral.

Laughing softly at the Autobot's cries, Vortex rises, and pulls the harness full of medic off the floor. Then, cautious to keep control over the swing and momentum of the suspended weight, he flies carefully off through the tunnels.

(Intelligence Compound, Polyhex)

After arriving at Polyhex, Vortex transformed and uncoupled the harness. He removed it, but kept the cuffs and signal inhibitor in place. Now, he walks his prisoner through the gloomy corridors to his new and as-yet-unused interrogation room deep in Soundwave's domain. He spent a while previously ensuring everything was exactly how he likes it, and he's currently anticipating a good amount of entertainment, plus some very useful intel. He hasn't yet spoken to First Aid, having elected to give him a prolonged dose of the silent treatment to see how he copes.

The flight was terrifying- no one is meant to be that far off the ground in anything except a nice enclosed shuttle cabin or something- and some tiny part of First Aid is aware of how totally wrong it is to be glad to have landed on an airstrip deep in what has to be Decepticon territory. The grey mech removed the webbing straps when they landed, but even if his hands were free, running here would be pointless. The grey and teal flyer is silent, roughly directing him with a hand on the cuffs through empty, dark halls. "Where are we? Where are you taking me?" First Aid is pretty sure, from descriptions he's heard, that this is Polyhex, but he's certainly never seen it. The quiet and gloom is incredibly oppressive, on top of everything else, and he can't totally suppress a shiver of fear as he wonders where he's being lead.

Vortex appreciates that little shiver, and he rewards his prisoner with a gentle nudge to the back to speed him up. Then they turn a corner, and Vortex pulls him to a halt by the cuffs and punches a code into the lock. The door slides open with a hydraulic hiss, revealing a pitch black space beyond. Vortex drags First Aid inside, and only bothers to turn the lights on when the door is firmly locked again behind them.

When it comes, the illumination is sudden and has the appearance of being too bright, in comparison with the dark. It reveals a long, low chair-like arrangement with straps and a pleasing array of tools. Most of these are for show; Vortex prefers to get his intel the hard way through talking and psychological manipulation. But he is very fond of the laser scalpels and the array of fine instruments designed for the accurate removal of optics and other delicate mechanisms. Vortex removes one side of the cuffs and fastens it to the side of the chair. "Sit," he says.

Somehow, First Aid had expected threats- not a relatively civil request. For an instant, he considers defiance- he really, really doesn't want to sit in that chair, any closer to the variety of terrifying-looking tools than he has to be= But with the cuff attached to his wrist and the chair, his only other option is to stand, a little bit awkwardly with the height of the chair relative to his wrist. Slowly, he complies, eying the grey mech with trepidation.

Vortex nods in acknowledgment of First Aid's compliance. He's smiling under his mask, but his optics don't give it away. "Now hold still," he says, as he goes around to fasten the straps at the Autobot's wrists and around his axles. He decides on a bit of chatter as he goes. "Can't have you fidgeting, you might knock something over and damage yourself, and I wouldn't want that. What's your name?" He gives First Aid a casual glance, as though he doesn't know.

First Aid tries to yank his free arm away as Vortex goes to strap it down, but isn't quite quick enough and certainly not strong enough once the grey mech actually has his wrist in hand. He glares at the other mech, and remains stubbornly silent. Dually didn't make that offer by accident (and what the Decepticons had done to make him agree, First Aid didn't want to think about) and not talking is about the only thing he can do right now to show that he's not going to just fold and give them whatever it is they want.

It's taken a while, but finally the Autobot has clammed up. Vortex tightens the restraints - not enough to exert undue pressure, just enough to keep First Aid from shuffling around too much - and leans on the arm-rest next to First Aid's cuffed wrist. He flexes his rotors, and gives the prisoner a casual once-over. "All right," he says, "So that's how you wanna play it." He pinches First Aid's thumb, testing the strength of the metal. "Your designation's First Aid, you work under Ratchet in Autobot repairs; you're a combiner and you're probably wondering right now exactly what we're doing with your brothers." Vortex doesn't think that First Aid is wondering that at all, but planting the idea in his mind could be useful, and there's always the chance that one or more of the team is a femme, in which case First Aid's response could be useful in finding that out too.

"You don't-" First Aid bites off whatever he was going to say. They don't have the others. He'd know. He /would/. It's a lie, trying to get a reaction out of him- and it worked, too. He cycles air through his vents nervously and grits his denta. He clenches his fist, tucking his thumb under his fingers, away from Vortex's pinching, and shakes his head. No. He's not going to say anything - anything else - to any of that.

"We do," Vortex says softly. He moves onto the back of First Aid's hand, pressing on the plating in a long sequence of taps which he's pretty sure will be distracting and annoying, and probably worrying too. "Consider how long it's been since you last saw your brothers. All of them. Fascinating cogs... Our research scientists will be in soon to investigate yours, although I'm sure they won't find anything new."

First Aid shakes his head, watching what Vortex is doing carefully. It isn't true, and he knows it- the part about his brothers, at least. The research scientists- that probably is, and he really doesn't want to think about that. Another deep intake of air, let out slowly and carefully. First Aid distracts himself by studying the big grey heliformer instead- no one he's ever heard of, but that's not really surprising.

"So quiet," Vortex comments. He digs around in a tray by the seat and brings up a complex-looking tool. He turns the end and it begins emitting a steady, pulsing light and an oddly weak, tingle-inducing electromagnetic pulse. "If you're too rude to talk to me, you won't mind if I take a little look around, will you?" He sweeps the device over First Aid's abdomen, aiming to disrupt and therefore unlock any subspace pockets the medic might have on him.

First Aid continues to be silent, although he inhales air sharply at the weird sensation of the EM pulse sucking his subspace open. A datapad bounces off his abdoman and clatters to the floor, followed by a flood of miscellaneous small parts- bits of damaged plating, snippets of wire, a few screws, a screwdriver, a miniaturized welding torch, and an actual small field medic kit with segments of tubing, nanite gel, and tape.

Vortex catches the datapad, but lets the rest tumble down. "Heh, I always wanted one of these," he says, and flicks it on. He puts the hacking device away and scrolls through the contents of the datapad in full view of First Aid; the idea being not only to find out what's on it, but to give the Autobot a rather nasty sense of boundary violation. "Hmm... This can't be for training," he says, "Unless Prowl's lost his head along with that chevron I tore off him. Romances... Stories... And what's this? A letter to Groove." The letter is very brief, but the tone is obviously warm; Vortex takes a chance on Groove being one of the other combiners - and if he's not, he's still very obviously a friend of the medic's and can be used as leverage if necessary. "No use in your sending that now, is there?"

"That's private," First Aid says, uselessly, before he can stop himself. "What do you want with him, anyawy?" It's not a very good bluff, but if it'll keep Groove safe, he has to try- someone will notice Aid's missing and the others will be safe, they will, they have to be. His intake vents continue to whirr loudly, fans at full agitated speed. "It's just stories on there. I like to read for fun."

"I'm sure you do," Vortex says, ignoring the question about what he wants with Groove for now. "Tell me, which one's your favourite?"

"Favorite what?" First Aid is being deliberately obtuse, but what else is there to do- if he thinks about how helpless he actually is, he won't be able to stop- and at least the other mech isn't touching him anymore.

"Story," Vortex says, as though distracted. He continues to scroll through the datapad for a while. "Fascinating research you've been doing. All these tales of gestalts past." Evidently, First Aid is interested for a reason, and it fits in with him appearing so young, and with the project evidently not being complete because if the Autobots had a working gestalt, everyone would know about it. He glances over the datapad at First Aid. "You're new to this, aren't you?"

"I-new to what? Being kidnapped and having my life threatened? I guess. It's only happened one other time." First Aid says, a little incredulously.

Vortex gives First Aid a wounded look, his optics dimming. "Now when did I threaten your life?" he says. "That's really hurtful." He's intrigued about the 'one other time', but as Soundwave wasn't involved he can only assume it was to do with neutrals - or even other Autobots - and is therefore irrelevant.

He puts the datapad in his own subspace, and looms again, getting right up in First Aid's visor. "I meant," he said, "that you're new to being a combiner. Now..." He raises the brightness of his optics, and leans an elbow on the armrest next to First Aid's wrist, to allow himself to tap the side of the medic's helm. "Earlier, you asked me why I've brought you here. Do you still want to know?"

First Aid can't help a nervous vent as the bigger mech looms. Streetwise would have some sort of smart remark. Blades would snarl at the mech. All he can do is stare and think- no, of course not, because it's sure to be horrible, and at the same time, yes, because at least then this little game would be over- although he doesn't doubt that the Decepticon is enjoying it, and probably has more under his plating to pull out...He settles for a tiny nod.

"All right," Vortex says, but he doesn't pull back. He rests his fingers against the side of First Aid's head where he'd been tapping. "I want to know about you," he says. "I want to know everything there is to know about you and your brothers, inside and out. And I'm prepared to take you apart piece by piece to learn it." He taps again, this time closer to First Aid's visor. "Now, this can go one of two ways for you. You can comply, and I'll make sure you're comfortable; we might even ransom you back. Or you can frag me around, in which case the first thing I'll take is your optics. Not quick... I'm not a surgeon. But I'm sure I can get them out in one piece. And as for your hands... I think I want to show those to your brothers; I think they'd like to know exactly where you are, don't you?" These aren't idle threats, and being honest with himself Vortex hopes for just enough defiance to warrant at least a small dismemberment. "

First Aid shudders. "That's not a real choice. I can't tell you about them." He'd like to believe that Vortex won't carry through on the threats but even if- when- he does... keeping the others safe is more important. Someone has to have noticed First Aid is gone by now, and the others /aren't here/, as long as FIrst Aid can hold out, they're safe. "I can't." He repeats, firmly.

"You mean you won't," Vortex says, deceptively kindly. "But that's OK." He reaches for a screwdriver and grabs First Aid by the helm, inspecting it for a way to remove his visor.

Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against its intelligence. Vortex's roll succeeds!

First Aid tries to turn his head, but the grip that Vortex has on the side of his helm is too strong, digging sharp fingers into the ridges for a very secure hold. "No, I won't." First Aid replies, fear making his voice sharp. He leans away from Vortex as much as the straps on the chair allow.

And off comes the visor. Vortex lays it on a shelf, and goes back to the Autobot. "Nice work on the optics," he says. "Your creators must have had their fingers in a lot of oilcakes to get resources like these without causing a stir." He grins, the gleam of the captive's optics far too enticing to hold back. "If we ransom you, I'll be keeping these." He swaps the screwdriver for a laser scalpel and drags it in a circuit around First Aid's right optic with the blade off. Then the turns it on, holding it close to the surface but not close enough to burn as a thought occurs to him. "I know someone else who'll be interested in knowing where you are," he says.

First Aid can't supress a stronger shiver- he knows exactly what a laser scapel is capable of, and how many sensor clusters are located in and around the optics, allowing the optical subprocessors to compensate for movement of the head when tracking optical focus- it's why his optics remain focused on the laser scalpel even as it moves, despite the fact that he's shaking- the sensors allow the processor to filter out that data automatically. He presses his lipplates together and vents heavily. This is going to hurt, but he's not going to give Vortex the satisfaction of being curious.

Vortex makes a pleased sound; finally the medic's starting to get appropriately scared. "We brought Lifeline in a while back," he lies, moving the scalpel closer to the optical orbit. He goes slowly for effect, and because he wants to prolong the fun for himself. "She didn't know what you were." This, Vortex is only guessing. He assumes that if Lifeline had known, Soundwave would have found out from her on her defection, rather than coming to his own conclusions. "But she still cares for you," he continues. "Shall I send her a little momento? Or maybe you'd like me to bring something of hers to you?"

First Aid abruptly cuts off the sharp noise of grief he wants to make before it can escape his vocalizer, which clicks as he resets it. The Decepticons have Lifeline? The Seekers that everyone saw must have come to capture her. He gives another little shake, trying again to dislodge Vortex's grip on his helm so he can move away from that laser scalpel. Please, Lifeline, be okay.

Soundwave has connected.

Vortex notices the change in First Aid, and opts on the spur of the moment to pursue a little psychological torture over the physical kind, at least for the next few dozen astroseconds. "She was your mentor, wasn't she?" Vortex says, continuing to hold the laser scalpel so that its heat is a mild discomfort rather than a searing pain. "She told us so much about your training," he lies. "All the things you learnt, all the people you helped. She taught you so much, and yet you didn't come to rescue her. You didn't even notice she was gone until it was far too late, did you? But you can help her now. You can tell me all those things that she couldn't, and maybe I'll find a way to get her back to Cubicron. But if you continue to frag me around, you won't be the only one losing an optic."

First Aid makes a tiny motion that might have been a shake of his head if Vortex wasn't preventing him from moving away from the laser scaple. His vents catch and his voice shakes, but he remains firm. "No." If they already have LIfeline. Please, let him be lying. "I won't tell you anything." Bluffing didn't work before, does he dare try it again? Better not.

"Oh you will," Vortex says with absolutely confidence. "You're already telling me so very much about yourself, you know that. Now hold still." He plunges the scalpel down, intending to carve neatly along the edge of First Aid's right optic, and make a path right around it to enable the entire thing to be removed all at once.

Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against its intelligence. Vortex's roll succeeds!

First Aid can't stop the sharp cry from escaping as the scalpel cuts into the relatively thin plating holding his optic lens in place, trying futily to struggle away from the piercing pain, optics brightening with distress and the miniscule servomotors that control the focusing mechanisms of the right optic whirring frantically as they try to cope with the overload of sensory data. Half of his vision is pixilated, overbright, nearly whited out even over the damage alerts popping up on his HUD, and it seems to go on for vorns. The tension cables in his neck tremble with the strain as he tries to yank his head away from the pain.

Laughing happily to himself, Vortex makes the final incision and lifts the optic carefully out of its orbit. Only a few wires are left to connect the part to the medic, and he slices cleanly through them. Then he holds it up in front of First Aid's lone working optic. "I'll show Lifeline later," he says. He puts it on a shelf next to the visor, then focuses again on his captive. He turns the laser scalpel off and taps his mask with it - the heated end leaves little scorch marks behind, but the pain just makes him want to giggle. "I've got an appointment with her in a few joors. Anything you don't tell me... She'll find out, and I'll bring you the parts after."

First Aid is venting, hard, trying to dismiss HUD warnings about damage that seem flat and oddly distorted, and he tips his head down, reflexively trying to bring a hand up to press against the damaged area, a movement he can't actually make as he is. "I can't- I won't tell you anything about them," He manages to get out. Please, let someone have noticed he's gone by now. SOmeone will come, they will. They have to.

"Then I guess Lifeline doesn't mean as much to you as you mean to her," Vortex says, hoping that the dig will cut through the pain. Then the harsh light glints from the back of First Aid's left hand, and Vortex is reminded of the medic's response to having his thumb pinched. He can't help the unsubtle rev of his engine. "But you know what? Optics all look the same when they're in a box. Hands, though, hands can be very distinctive..." He lifts First Aid's thumb with the warm end of the laser scalpel; he's always been rather fond of live dissections.

The door slides open, and Soundwave steps through, moving surprisingly quietly for a mech of his size. He watches both Vortex and First Aid silently for a few moments, visor glinting in the light, before speaking. "Vortex: subject status?"

"LIfeline will ... understand," First Aid manages to say around sucking in air as fast as he can and dismissing the warnsings as fast as they come up. He brings his head up, sharply at the sound of the new voice and trying to focus enough to figure out who it belongs to

"Lifeline will ... understand," First Aid manages to say around sucking in air as fast as he can and dismissing the warnsings as fast as hey come up. The point of the depowered laser scapel is warm, not hot against his hand, but there's no room to move away from it, and he can't help another convulsive almost-sob at the implied threat. At the sound of a new voice, he brings his head up sharply, trying to identify the source of the new voice from the descriptions and images he's seen of the Co officers (which truly aren't many)

"Recalcitrant," Vortex replies. He fishes into his subspace and passes Soundwave the datapad he's taken from First Aid's subspace. The rest of the items are still scattered all over the Autobot and the seat. Vortex switches to internal comms so as to speak to Soundwave privately. *comm*"There's an unfinished letter on there to a 'Groove'. Subject's responses indicate it could be one of the team. I've told him we have Lifeline prisoner and I'll hack her apart if he doesn't comply. I could do with a few spare parts that could conceivably have come from her for later, if working on the hand doesn't open him up. One thing's certain, you're right, he's a combiner."*/comm*

Aloud, he speaks to First Aid. "She'll understand that you bartered her optics and her hands and her spark for a few words? Is that what she'll think just before she dies - it was all worth it, because First Aid didn't have to talk?" He sniffs, and switches the scalpel back on. This time, his plan is to make a shallow cut around the edge of First Aid's thumb to enable him to peel off the dermal plating.

Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against its intelligence. Vortex's roll fails!

First Aid picks up the dicebag and takes out a D10. First Aid rolls a 2!

Soundwave accepts the datapad, flicking it on and scanning through the contents as Vortex comms him. //Understood.// He answers shortly, //I will attempt to locate suitable parts for intimidation purposes.// He listens to Vortex's threats with an almost clinical disinterest, not bothering to look up as the scalpel hums to life.

First Aid is fairly certain that the big blue mech is Soundwave (and he's both bigger and significantly more creepy than Aid had expected, not that he really expected to ever meet the mech), but most of his attention is focused on Vortex. Heat pours off the blade of the activated laser scalpel, and he tries to yank his hand away at the last second, twisting it on the tabletop even though the strap around his wrist leaves him almost no play to move. For a microsecond, he thinks it worked, until the hot, sharp pain of the laser cutting plate washes over him, not just from his plating but from the delicate sensors deeper within his thumb. "Please- don't, it hurts-" He gasps, trying still to free his hand from the laser scalpel that's bitten deeply into the base of his thumb. "I'll- I'll tell you something!"

The laser scalpel slips and /frag!/ That was not meant to happen. Vortex stills his engine before any hint of his dissatisfaction becomes audible. But what's that? The medic's opening up a little. His annoyance turns to predatory interest. So what if the thumb's a mess? If this was just for fun, he'd start again on the other hand, but this is work and he knows that he needs to pursue his professional goals before his own entertainment. Plus, he'd rather not let the medic know that he didn't intend the scalpel to go right through him like that. He lifts First Aid's index finger and bends it back, placing the laser scalpel very close to the base. "Make it good," he says.

To Soundwave, he adds, //Thankyou, sir. When's the engineering team due to come take him apart?//

Soundwave moves his head just slightly, possibly turning his attention to the 'conversation' going on before him, or simply relieving kinks in his neck cables. The visor makes it impossible to tell from just a glance, and it's doubtful either of the room's other occupants are paying him that much attention. //Engineering team: will be called in once all information has been extracted.//

"Yes, I'm a combiner," First Aid says, wincing as Vortex's pressure on his finger pulls the plating far enough the deep gash in his thumb pulls as well. Fluids seep slowly from the little wound, the point of the scapel having bitten deeply enough through plating to cut energon and lubricant lines. He vents hard, again, trying to pull himself back together. "But we don't know how to do it yet!"

Those are both things Vortex had already worked out, but he's pleased with the progress; at least his subject is talking (and in front of Soundwave too, excellent). Now, to hopefully get him to say more. He tugs harder on the finger, but doesn't move the laser scalpel - if Soundwave is holding off the engineers until Vortex has had a chance to extract all he can, then he has a little time to play with. "How many of you are there?" he says.

First Aid cringes slightly, and hesitates until the pressure increases on his finger again. "Five- there's five of us." He vents air hard, shuttering his good optic and turning his head away from Vortex and Soundwave.

"Where are the others based?" Vortex says, keeping the hand still and the pressure on.

First Aid shakes his head. If they don't already know they aren't all in Iacon, FIrst Aid isn't going to be the one to tell him. "Won't tell you that."

"Won't you?" Vortex says. He pulls First Aid's index finger further back, pausing a moment to watch the fluids dribble from the gash in his thumb. Then he brings the scalpel down, and attempts to cut along the base to sever the hydraulics without affecting the sensor relays. While he does this, he can feel Soundwave watching them; it's rather pleasant to have an audience.

Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against its intelligence. Vortex's roll succeeds!

First Aid gasps again, and a pained little whimper escapes. "I can't, I won't tell you where they are." It's almost more sobbing than talking, but he grits his denta again and clams up.

Soundwave watches both Vortex and First Aid carefully, taking in the young mech's reaction to the mutilation of his fingers with a calculated stare. He's well aware of how sensitive most of the sensors in a medic's hands are, and the Autobot's taking it remarkably well for someone so apparently young.

"And you were doing so well." Vortex sighs and wiggles the finger a little, testing the mobility now that the hydraulics no longer work. It amuses him for a few astroseconds, while he considers how to proceed. The Autobot appears to have drawn a protective line around anything directly pertaining to his four brothers. Vortex lifts the next finger, gently. "How do you know you can't combine?" he says.

First Aid shakes his head and presses his lips together. Not answering that either. Is it last shift yet- someone has to have missed him by now.

Another non starter. "You're fragging me around again," Vortex warns, and lets the finger fall back. He warms the knuckle with the laser scalpel. "Either you give me something else, or I'm taking this." He sweeps the heat along the finger then back again to emphasise his point.

First Aid shakes his head mutely- what can he offer that won't hurt anyone? He doesn't know, everything seems like it will come back to who his brothers are, and where- questions he's not willing to answer, and the pain from his optic is a hard, distracting ache.

"Nothing?" Vortex says with mock incredulity. "Oh well." He slowly brings the scalpel down, aiming to send it very slowly straight through the knuckle and effectively sever the finger all except a little plating to either side.

Vortex picks up the dicebag and rolls against its intelligence. Vortex's roll succeeds!

It's nearly a scream this time, half-strangled as First Aid tries to keep quiet and cringing as he tries to draw the injured hand back towards him, prevented from doing so by the straps. "Please, stop-" He can't stop himself from asking- more or less begging. "Please, it hurts!" His fans have ramped up again and his remaining optic is pale blue, almost washed out in color as it tries to cope with the higher voltage load from a power system that's no longer feeding two optics as well as his own stress. First Aid's plating is warm to the touch- warmer than usual as coolant pressure rises, forcing fluids to circulate faster to try and keep more areas cooler longer.

Vortex keeps the laser scalpel embedded in the wound; the heat of it must be excruciating. "You can make it stop," he says. "I've got sensor blocks and all kinds of things, but you have to talk to me."

First Aid slumps forward in the seat, still trying to curl away from the pain in his hand. "I can't, I can't betray them, I won't tell you anything about them," First Aid says, venting hard. "I can't!"

Vortex looms again, leaning close to look down into First Aid's working optic. The light is so dim that he can see the reflection of his own red visor in the glass as clear as if it was a mirror. "Then tell me about yourself," he says.

Soundwave watches impassively, not even twitching as the mech's almost-scream echoes in the room. He catalogs the reaction with mild interest, putting the information away for later use if necessary. His helm tilts forward minutely as Vortex questions the mech, still listening silently.

First Aid shakes his head, both in negation and to try and clear up his vision a little. "I... like what. 'm an apprentice medic, combiner- you know all that already." He groans.

"What's your alt mode?" Vortex asks, jolting the scalpel just a little.

First Aid shudders. "Don't have one," He squirms in the seat, trying to get further away from Vortex, from the laser scapel, from the pain and the fear and any and all of it. "Doesn't work, hasn't ever that I know of."

Now that's interesting. Vortex resists asking about First Aid's team mates' alt modes, and goes instead for another question about the medic himself. "How long have you known you were a combiner?"

The smell of coolant and energon lines scorching past cauterized shut and into just burnt fills the air as the laser scapel continues to burn away at First Aid's hand. "Please- stop, I told you something!" First Aid takes another deep breath. "I don't know- a few orns? Not very long."

This time Vortex does withdraw the scalpel. "Good," he says, and fetches a cloth from one of the trays. He mops up the spilt fluids, then gives First Aid's hand a thorough visual examination. There are still two undamaged fingers, and the whole thing is boringly still attached to First Aid's wrist, but the damage is fascinating. "I said something about a sensor block," Vortex muses, and starts to look through the trays, as though searching. "How did you come to work for Lifeline?"

It still hurts- hurts a lot- but First Aid can think again, or think better, anyway. He pauses, weighing the problem of giving Vortex any information at all against the inevitability of more pain, and quails, good optic dimming briefly as he looks down, taking a deep breath. All he can think to do is lie, or at least shade the truth. "A neutral found me in Cubi- I was hurt. Lifeline fixed me and let me work off the repair bill."

"Found you after what?" Vortex queries. He continues looking for the mystery sensor block, giving First Aid a small reprieve from being scrutinised.

"Don't know- don't remember. Empties or something," First Aid says. He lets the optic power down and tries to ignore the pain in his head and hand.

"Don't remember," Vortex presses, "or don't want to tell me?"

First Aid shakes his head again. Vortex's voice sounds like it's coming from a long way away. "Don't remember. Running and someone hurt me." He keeps his head down, suddenly too tired to look back up and watch the other mech, make sure he's not reaching for Aid's hand again- it all seems distant and foggy.

"Were your brothers with you?" Vortex asks. He ceases his pantomime of searching and pulls a sensor block out of one of the trays he'd prepared earlier. He moves around the chair and grips First Aid's damaged hand, then clips the block around his wrist. He deliberately puts it quite a way from the wounds, and on the outside of the armour, rather than attached to the network of sensors, as he doesn't want to cut off the pain altogether. Rather, he wants to dim it just enough that First Aid will notice.

First Aid slumps further as the block kicks in- even a reduction in the pain is enough to allow the fog to clear a little. "May- maybe. Not sure," He says, voice distant. "That- that's better... Don't know where they were."

The plot thickens. Vortex looks into First Aid's remaining optic. He'll keep asking questions until the 'bot fades completely, considering this state appears to be quite productive, but he knows it can't last. "Who built you?" he says softly.

"Don't know," First Aid mumbles. "Asked and Alpha said but they're not real. Just stories." The optic is dim, despite the shutter being open to maximum, and it doesn't move to track Vortex even as he leans in closer.

"Who're just stories?" Vortex says, keeping his voice soft and low.

"'Droita. Read the story, 's silly- 's on my pad still, didn't wanna delete it. Don't remember the others, too fuzzy," There's something First should remember, not the questions, but something else, but his head hurts and his arm hurts but it's distant and he doesn't want to think too hard.

"What else did Alpha say?" Vortex prompts. He moves his head, but First Aid's optic is no longer tracking him.

First Aid's voice is nearly inaudible. "Be strong. Have faith." His optic dims.

Soundwave watches the exchange silently, noting the names and the mention of the datapad. This would be more useful than he expected, and he makes a few notations in his processor about further avenues to explore. He considers First Aid's current state, and judges whether or not a medic is necessary yet. The damage may not be horrific, but with an inexperienced mech it tended to overwhelm them quickly.

Well, that sounds honest, but not exactly very useful - unlike some of the rest of it. Vortex turns to Soundwave; he doesn't speak aloud as he's aware that First Aid will probably still be able to hear them for a while even if he can't respond. //I'll give him several joors, then try again,// he says. //I'll need a copy of everything on that datapad, and exclusive access to him for the next day.// He doesn't believe that First Aid requires a medic, and he would probably object if Soundwave were to call one in. This is delicate work, and he doesn't like other sticking their noses in.

//Understood. Exclusive access granted; medical assistance on stand-by in case of incident.// Soundwave responds, notifying the appropriate people of these facts. //Copy of datapad contents: available in ten breems.//

Vortex grins. //Appreciated, sir,// he says. He dims the lights, and hauls a chair over to a console in the corner. This is behind the interrogation platform and therefore would be well out of First Aid's (now reduced) field of vision, even if he could currently see. It's obvious that Vortex plans on remaining in the room.